and Noncompetitive State
Of all the dynastic founders in Chinese history, Zhu Yuanzhang came from the humblest origins. When drought and famine afflicted his home locale in 1344, his parents and an elder brother perished within weeks. Unable to afford coffins, Zhu and another brother buried them hastily with their own hands. Thereafter they went their separate ways. The future emperor of the Ming dynasty, then not yet sixteen, turned up as a novice in a Buddhist monastery performing menial work. Not long after, he became a mendicant, begging for food while wandering around the Huai River region. In this way he got in touch with the peasant rebels and secret societies that were to be instruments of dynastic reconstruction.
In the last decades of the Mongol period, famine relief was not properly undertaken, public works gathered large numbers of laborers who were poorly treated, and Yuan generals were bickering among themselves--ripe conditions for insurgents to entertain imperial aspirations. Self-taught and a skillful manipulator, Zhu Yuanzhang was able to use his organizational talents to pick up the pieces. With a combination of hard fighting and clever finesse, it took him a dozen years to consolidate the territories of a host of self-made men like himself.